07 September 2009

Singapore's National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP)

Singapore HAS wildlife and we HAVE been looking at and after it! And will continue to do so.
The Singapore National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was launched on Saturday. It was exciting to read all about what we have done, and what we can yet accomplish for our biodiversity and natural heritage!

At the NBSAP launch there was also an announcement to rejoin the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area, which have been separated by the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) since 1986. To allow plants and animal species to once again move between the two areas, a new "eco-passage" will be built over the BKE. The bridge, 50m wide at its narrowest point and planted with dense trees resembling a forest habitat, could help populations of animals like the critically-endangered banded leaf monkey to recover. A hiking trail at one edge will also enable humans to move between the reserves. A tender will be called at the end of this year and construction will start next year. More media articles on the wildsingapore news blog.

The NBSAP is available online on the NParks website and can also be downloaded (PDF).

I was really excited to read especially about our marine and shore life.
Our inter-tidal mangroves and mudflats are home to hundreds of fish species, which live in the root systems of more than 31 true mangrove plant species. Seagrass meadows still remain, with 12 of the 23 Indo-Pacific species found within Singapore's waters. More than 100 species of inter-tidal sponges have been recorded, and many more are likely to be observed in the sub-tidal areas, along with the 256 different species of hard corals.
Among the key points in "Holistic Approach to Nature Conservation"
Looking forward, Singapore will need to continue to grow economically and demographically. But nature conservation need not necessarily suffer as a result if we can continue to find unique solutions to meet our set of challenges.

This requires a pragmatic approach in balancing development and biodiversity conservation, finding unique solutions to create a nature conservation model that champions environmental sustainability in a small urban setting.

Community involvement is key to Singapore’s long-term success in conserving our natural heritage. Already, there are many examples where the public, private and people sectors work hand-in-hand in successful projects to conserve our native flora and fauna.

But to have a city where people and nature co-exist in harmony, we will need to press on to raise the appreciation of the wonders of nature within our urban setting.
The principles of the NBSAP include
Providing a framework that uses an integrated approach for the conservation of our natural heritage. Our aim is to create an urban biodiversity conservation model that champions environmental sustainability in an urban setting with well-endowed natural heritage.
The following principles guide its implementation:
  • The biodiversity resources of Singapore are our natural heritage and should be conserved for future generations.
  • Considerations on biodiversity and ecosystems are factored into the national planning process.
  • A balanced view is adopted of national priorities and international and regional obligations.
The goals of the NBSAP "mirror the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity".
  • Conserve and enhance biodiversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels.
  • Ensure sustainable use of Singapore's biodiversity resources.
  • Ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits that result from the use of our genetic resources.
The most exciting portions of the NBSAP are the Strategies outlined.

Strategy 1: Safeguard our biodiversity
Among the marine related strategies is the Marine Rehabilitation Programme: Coral Nursery Project at Pulau Semakau. This is the first coral nursery in the region that uses "coral of opportunity" (i.e. coral fragments that lie free on the reef having been fragmented by some impact) as seed corals for growth and transplantation. This is unlike other commercial methods of harvesting corals, which breaks up healthy coral colonies for planting. The project involves NParks, the National University of Singapore with sponsorship from Keppel Corporation and support from the National Environment Agency.

Strategy 2: Consider biodiversity issues in policy and decision-making
Focusing efforts on protecting existing native species and ecosystems, and to re-establish species which once existed.

Among the actions taken in relation to our marine biodiversity is Integrated Coastal Management. A multi-agency Technical Committee has been set up to holistically manage the multi-sectoral use of Singapore's coastal and sea-space resources. This has become increasingly complex, requiring the balancing of development, navigation, public health and conservation goals.

Another action taken in this direction was "Saving Chek Jawa".
Go to the NParks website to find out the responses to these questions: Do Singaporeans care about our biodiversity? Does the Singapore Government take biodiversity considerations into decision-making and listen to citizens’ feedback? Also read more about some of the Chek Jawa effort on the original Chek Jawa website.

Strategy 3: Improve knowledge of our biodiversity and the natural environment
Emphasises that it is essential to support taxonomic studies, document our biodiversity and conduct ecological research.

Among the actions taken for our marine biodiversity is the publication of the Singapore Red Data Book. It is a resource for planners, researchers, students and agencies, to help plan conservation actions. It is also the basis for monitoring, so that the status of species can be tracked. And soon, it will be available online!

There have already been several efforts at documenting our marine biodiversity. These include NPark's collaborations such as the study of marine sponge biodiversity and distribution by Lim Swee Cheng which has resulted, among others, in the brand new Guide to Sponges of Singapore. Another marine research collaboration is with Dr Patrick Grootaert on the very exciting Singapore Mangrove Insect Project.

Strategy 4: Enhance education and public awareness
The Plan emphasises that action depends on knowledge and awareness. Thus communicating about our biodiversity is critical for public involvement. Actions include promoting volunteerism through biodiversity interest groups, and incorporating biodiversity conservation into the school curriculum.

Among the many Volunteer and Outreach Programmes outlined in NBSAP are guided walks at our coastal habitats such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Kusu Island and Pulau Semakau.
These tours are run by NParks and various interest groups including The Blue Water Volunteers, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Nature Society of Singapore.

Also highlighted is the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, coordinated by the Toddycats (volunteers of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research), and which is one of Singapore’s largest environmental conservation programme with an average annual participation of 1,500 volunteers.

Other public activities mentioned include biodiversity-related seminars and educational workshops conducted by organisations and interest groups such as NParks, Nature Society of Singapore, Cicada Tree Eco-place and The Leafmonkey Workshop. (for the latest happenings, see the wildsingapore happenings blog).

These varied organisations also reach out to the community by showcasing their work in environment-related events, such as Earth Day, International Day for Biological Diversity, World Environment Day, and Envirofest.

And wow, there is a separate section for Wild Singapore Online! I'm totally overwhelmed!

Strategy 5: Strengthen partnerships with all stakeholders and promote international collaboration
For biodiversity conservation to be effective it was important to engage all stakeholders, including private, public and people sectors (government agencies, academia, schools, conservation groups, amateur naturalists and private corporations), in a comprehensive partnership. Such partnerships should be pursued domestically and internationally.

The actions already undertaken in this respect include these efforts for our marine biodiversity:

Coral Nursery
Started in Jul 07, the coral nursery was established to enhance hard coral cover and diversity in Singapore. Located at Pulau Semakau it involves NParks, Keppel Corporation, National University of Singapore, National Environment Agency

Coral Reef Surveys
Started in 2005, the surveys monitor the status of hard corals, mobile invertebrates and reef fish at nine locations around five of Singapore's southern islands: Pulau Hantu, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Jong, The Sisters, Kusu Island and Raffles Lighthouse. The effort involves NParks, Blue Water Volunteers consisting of about 40 active volunteers from all walks of life, including journalists, tertiary students and teachers.

Seagrass Monitoring
Started in 2006, the surveys are part of Seagrass-Watch, a global seagrass assessment and monitoring programme spanning 18 countries with more than 200 monitoring sites worldwide. In Singapore, the surveys cover Pulau Semakau, Cyrene Reef, Chek Jawa, Labrador Beach, Sentosa (Tg. Rimau) and Tuas. The effort involves NParks, Seagrass-Watch HQ and TeamSeagrass volunteers, consisting of more than 60 active volunteers from all walks of life ranging from professionals to retirees. Also in partnership are Schering-Plough, a pharmaceutical company monitoring seagrasses at Tuas and Raffles Girls School (Secondary), which monitors and conducts experiments on the seagrass meadow at Labrador Beach as part of its Science Programme.

Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity
Here's some exciting background about the Index
In 2008, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities. Global demographic trends indicate that there will be more cities emerging and the number of megacities will increase. However, biodiversity, which is important for sustaining human health, is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. The key to the success of biodiversity conservation, hence, lies in the hands of city dwellers.

However, we cannot act appropriately unless we know where we stand in terms of our biodiversity conservation status. As a city-state, Singapore, with a rich legacy of biodiversity, is in an advantageous position to develop an innovative way to address this global issue.

In May 2008, Singapore proposed the establishment of an index to measure biodiversity in cities at the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Seventeen technical experts, comprising representatives from the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity, convened at a workshop in Singapore in February 2009, to design the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity.

The Singapore Index comprises three components; a) Biodiversity in the City, b) Ecosystem Services provided by the Native Biodiversity in the City, and c) Governance and Management of Biodiversity in the City.

In this form, it would function as a monitoring tool. The global responses from city officials, scientists, conservation managers, academics, etc. have been positive, and various cities are now testing out the draft index to validate its usefulness.

The Draft Users’ Manual for the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity (PDF) is posted on the website of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
There's lots that has already been done, and LOTS more that needs to be done. Everyone can make a difference!

You CAN make a difference.
Simply explore, express and act for our biodiversity.

For more about Singapore's marine life see the wild fact sheets and free photos as well as posts on this blog about my field trips.

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